Sunday, June 30, 2013

Minority Rights, Minority Aggression


I read Linda Greenhouse’s analysis of the current Supreme Court and Chief Justice John Roberts in the New York Times today: “In its sweeping disregard of history, precedent and constitutional text, the chief justice’s 5-to-4 opinion in the voting rights case was startling for its naked activism….”

So I was thinking.

No state system is 100% democratic.  Even in Athens, it was only men and landholders (I think) who got to vote.  Thus, the US constitution and common practice has many aspects where the rights of minorities can be protected.

In our contemporary Unitec States, one such minority is the monied (and unmonied) White interests, as represented primarily by the Republican Party.  Here are the ways they have protected themselves.

One – the constitution provides that all states shall be represented equally by two senators in the US Senate.  Most of the smaller population states are in the West and South, and they are Republican.  The Republicans are thus over-represented in the Senate.

Two – the Senate has adopted rules that make a super-majority of 60 votes mandatory for many important issues, thus protecting the minority party, which is now the Republican Party.  This rule makes the minority doubly protected in the Senate.

Three – Gerrymandering.  The House districts may be arranged every ten years by the ruling party in most of the states.  Politicians being what they are, most of the districts are now non-competitive by party, and incumbents are the rule.  In addition, and as the power of government in the states was largely Republican in the last iteration, the House Republican majority is likely to continue for many years.

Four – Tactics to disenfranchise voters.  In this last election many states took egregious steps to make voting more difficult for those more likely to vote Democratic – the poor, the elderly, etc.  

Five -- The role of money in politics and government.  Even before Citizens United, raising money for political campaigns had for decades given more and more ascendance to them that has.  

Six – the Supreme Court.  This was designed to be a non-democratic feature of government, with hopefully wiser heads appointed for life.  The Republicans have appointed the majority of the current occupants, all of whom are virulent right-wingers, with the exception of Anthony Kennedy, a man of the Right but with interesting divergences.

Sometimes lack of democracy is a good thing.  Untrammeled democracy could tax the rich beyond recognition and cripple the country.  Time has shown that an independent judiciary is important.  Some of these will change with time.  But as it stands now, the only thing holding up the Republican Party is their tenacious and aggressive pursuit of a minority agenda by any and all means. 

I guess everyone realizes this, but it's nice to put it down and look at it.

Budd Shenkin

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